"Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy"― Thomas Merton (American Catholic writer, mystic and Trappist monk).
Merton's words are the essence of the teachings of Jesus. I would go so far as to to say that they are the teachings at the heart of any faith; everything else is window-dressing. The only people Jesus didn't like were those who believed only their way, their religion and their beliefs were the right ones. In his days, those were the Pharisees; in our day it is any religious fundamentalist or anyone who despises others.
Here are four statues of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet from the British Museum. She was the defender of the Sun god, Ra and she had titles such as "Before Whom Evil Trembles," "Mistress of Dread" and "Lady of Slaughter."
There is a myth where Ra sent Sekhmet to destroy humans who conspired against him. She did what he asked for but got caught up in the passion of destruction and ended up destroying half of humanity. To stop her, Ra poured out beer dyed red so that it resembled blood. Mistaking the beer for blood, Sekhmet became so drunk that she gave up the slaughter.
It's a legend about bloodlust--about not being able to contain a fervour that wants to cleanse the world of perceived evil. It is an important legend for us now when those who think they know what is right and wrong in the world believe that they have a right to sort it with a gun.
At the moment, the world is debating whether Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people in an Orlando gay discotheque did it because he was homophobic or because he was Islamist or both.
The answer to those two questions actually doesn't matter as much as the answer to the question: "Why did he hate?"
From what I've read, he hated because he felt an outsider; he hated because when he sat in that discotheque, he felt disconnected, unloved and confused. He was most likely repressed gay and hated himself. He saw people having fun and making out and he wasn't having fun or making out. He hated because he didn't live in any kind of society which was willing -- or able -- to be with him and help him sort through his own rubbish.
Islamist fundamentalism was just a very convenient handle to make him feel right in his hatred.
Does that mean that the people in the discotheque should have helped him? No, they were there to dance and make out; that's what a disco is for. But somewhere along the line, why wasn't there someone, somewhere in his life who was able to show him the reality of love? Come to that, why isn't there someone in everyone's life to do that?
Because very few people actually teach it, let alone understand it. We are too busy making people right and wrong to love them.
Franciscan monk and mystic, Fr. Richard Rohr, says this: "When you've stumbled--and the guilt, loneliness, and fear come to assault you--if you don't have at least one good friend, or if you have not developed a prayer life where you know how to find yourself in God instead of in your own feelings, you will simply retrench and reassert your correctness."
Father Rohr suggests that we take another look at the story of the Garden of Eden to work out why we think it's so important to be "correct."
After eating from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve started judging good and evil -- not only in themselves, but in everybody else as well. This is what destroyed Paradise, and it is the great mistake still practiced by some of the great religions of the world. We think we know what's right and wrong. But we don't. We only have the narrowest of pictures.
We have been doing this for thousands of years. Christianity used to be the ringleader, torturing, beheading, burning heretics and carrying out crusades against the infidel which included murder, theft and rape in the name of religious zeal, Today, Islamic State is continuing this "righteous" slaughter but most religions which have lost their mystical heart have done the same.
Homophobia justifies itself through religious laws that are a minimum of 1500 years old. Nobody ever seems to think that God could allow any change, update or evolution. All fundamentalists mistake Universal Law (love God, love yourself, love your neighbour) with cultural law (don't do this, that or the other in this era). Cultural laws may change; Universal Law does not.
With regard to religious belief and homosexuality, the only question that is valid now, in 2016, is, "if God doesn't like gay folk, why is He/She making so many of them?"
God isn't stupid (we do that bit) and God doesn't make mistakes (we do that bit too). Therefore, gay folk simply have to be part of the Divine plan. Maybe you guys are also here to dance, to brighten our lives and to teach us love?
We are not Sekhmet. We do not have to defend God. What we do have to do -- and that is all of us -- is look at where we too are, like Omar Mateen, judging others as being wrong and deserving of hatred and ruining our own lives as well as others by doing so.
Because, one day, we too may be at the wrong end of a gun, facing someone who believes we deserve to die. And then we may regret all the hours we wasted complaining, bitching and condemning those we thought were wrong and wish that we had spent more time dancing, loving and brightening life ourselves.